Police hunt gunmen in Vienna streets after 'terrorist' attack

Several suspects armed with rifles opened fire at six locations in the Austrian capital on Monday evening • A police operation still ongoing to determine whether further attackers may be on the run

The attack began at about 8pm local time on Monday when several men armed with rifles opened fire, starting outside the city’s main synagogue
The attack began at about 8pm local time on Monday when several men armed with rifles opened fire, starting outside the city’s main synagogue

A series of attacks across central Vienna in which gunmen killed at least three people and injured several others were carried out by at least one “Islamist terrorist,” Austrian Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said on Tuesday.

The shootings by several gunmen in a busy part of the city on Monday night has left two men and a woman dead. Only one known attacker was shot dead by police, according to Vienna’s police chief, while at least one of the gunmen was still at large.

 Nehammer said that fifteen people were injured in the attack in the centre of the capital, among them a police officer.

The Austrian authorities are still trying to determine whether further attackers may be on the run.

Nehammer repeated calls for the public to stay at home on Tuesday in an early morning televised news conference, as he said that one attacker, heavily armed and wearing an explosive belt, was an Islamic State sympathiser.

“We experienced an attack yesterday evening from at least one Islamist terrorist,” Nehammer said, adding that the attack was an attempt to weaken or divide Austria’s democratic society.

The attack began at about 8pm local time on Monday when several men armed with rifles opened fire, starting outside the city’s main synagogue. The police said shots were fired in “six different locations”.

A large police operation was still ongoing, and authorities urged residents to stay away from the city centre, and not to use public transport. Officials said schools would be closed on Tuesday.

“We are experiencing difficult hours in our republic,” Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said on Twitter, adding that the army would protect sites in the capital so the police could focus on anti-terror operations.

“Our police will act decisively against the perpetrators of this repulsive terror attack,” he said. “We will never be intimidated by terrorism and we will fight this attack with all means”.

The assailants, Kurz later told local media, were “very well prepared” and “very well equipped, with automatic weapons”.

“We have brought several special forces units together that are now searching for the presumed terrorists. I am therefore not limiting it to an area of Vienna, because these are mobile perpetrators,” he said. 

While the shootings began near Vienna’s main synagogue, Jewish community leader Oskar Deutsch said on Twitter that it was not clear whether the synagogue and adjoining offices had been the target.

He added that they were closed at the time.

Reaction from European leaders 

On Twitter, French President Emmanuel Macron said France “shared the shock and grief of the Austrian people … This is Europe. Our enemies must know who they are dealing with. We will never give up.”

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “deeply shocked” at the attacks, and said Britain stood united with Austria. 

“Our thoughts are with the victims and their families, and with the Austrian government in dealing with this heinous act,” Rutte said on Twitter.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and EU Council chief Charles Michel also “strongly condemned” the attacks.

And Germany’s foreign ministry tweeted that the reports from Austria were “horrifying and disturbing”.

Czech police said they were conducting checks on the border with Austria. “Police are carrying out random checks of vehicles and passengers on border crossings with Austria as a preventive measure in relation to the terror attack in Vienna,” Czech police tweeted.

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